Most people think of vitamins as benign nutrients. If a little is good then a “lottle” is better. In other words, the more the merrier. Most of the time people do not get into trouble if they take a little extra vitamin C or D or even vitamin E. But one vitamin that poses a serious risk in overdose is vitamin B6, as this reader learned the hard way:
Q. I was taking a lot of vitamin B6 for my depression. After a while my feet started feeling numb and cold. Now my legs and feet feel numb. Is there any way I can reverse this problem?
A. Too little or too much vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) can both cause nerve damage (Neuromuscular Disorders, Feb. 2008). Symptoms of such neuropathy include numbness, balance problems and poor reflexes. You should see a neurologist and stop taking excessive doses of vitamin B6 immediately.
Another close call:
Q. I am an avid walker in very good health. After a strenuous two-week walking tour of Europe, I got home and began experiencing increasing numbness and tingling on the bottoms of my feet.
When I developed similar sensations in my hands, I sought help from my orthopedist, expecting to learn my arthritis had gotten worse. Finding nothing to cause my symptoms, the orthopedist sent me to a neurologist who did all the routine tests, including a back MRI looking for spinal stenosis. He also ordered a nutritional analysis and discovered that I suffered from vitamin B6 toxicity.
My multiple vitamin supplement contains a lot more than the recommended dietary allowance for several B vitamins. They are supposed to be water soluble but somehow in my system, the B6 built up to toxic levels, causing the neuropathies. About a week after discontinuing that supplement, the symptoms disappeared!
A. Most people tolerate doses up to 25 mg or even 50 mg a day without getting into trouble. But you may be especially vulnerable. The symptoms you describe (numbness and tingling in the extremities) are typical of neuropathy.
The Sweet Spot:
Too little or too much vitamin B6 can cause neuropathy. That’s why it is important to make sure you are getting enough, but not too much. Here are some examples of the trouble you can get into when you are too high or too low:
“When I took B Complex tablet for numbness in limbs, it didn’t work. Instead it increased. Recently I came to know excess pyridoxine causes numbness. When I take B Complex tablets I have numbness in legs and arms frequently, until I stop medication.”